Motherhood – the shower of blessings
The heavens are pregnant with the blessings of God. It is as if the heavens themselves are a bulging balloon on the verge of breaking and showering the world with the freshness of water. It is for the sake of these blessings that God the Father sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to bestow his blessings upon us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Today, we recall the fact that Jesus ascends into the heavens to flood us with these blessings. The one who descended from heaven to become man, taking the form of a slave, is the one who also ascends into heaven so that humans might be utterly reunited to God. Jesus Christ descended from heaven into the womb of the virgin Mary, receiving his flesh from this teenage virgin, and today he takes that flesh back into the enteral kingdom so that it might be reentered into the Garden that it once left. For the first time in human history full humanity finds a place in the eternal promised land where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. And like an everlasting Mardi Gras Jesus is throwing the rewards of his Ascension back down on earth in blessings untold. And the sprinkler heads of these blessings are mothers.
Just like a sprinkler system sprays water across a yard through several sprinkler heads, so too, the one source of Grace, Jesus Christ, sprays forth his blessings upon the world through mothers. Every child enters the world through a mother and through their mothers every child receives the outpouring of love, grace and affection that God the Father has for each and every human being.
The first blessing of God that enters the world through motherhood is the child him/herself. Children are always a blessing from God. Human life, from conception to natural death, even though it can be marked by suffering, difficulty or challenge, is always sacred and is always to be protected. So great is the dignity of motherhood that Jesus himself chose to enter the world through a teenage girl. And make no mistake about it: her pregnancy was not without its challenges. Pregnant at the age of fourteen, Mary had the frightful task of telling St. Joseph that she was with child even before their marriage was complete. So shocking was this news to St. Joseph, and so difficult for the society of their time to understand, that St. Joseph had decided to “divorce her quietly” so that she would not fall under the condemnations of the time. It was only through the intervention of an angel that St. Joseph accepted on faith that Mary’s pregnancy was a direct act of God and, rather than “exposing her to shame,” he took her into his home and became the foster father of Jesus. Why did Jesus Christ choose to become man under such circumstances? To reveal in explicit terms that motherhood, even when it takes place in the midst of fear, rejection and sacrifice, always results in the one eternal blessing: a human child. The first blessing of motherhood that God wants to reveal to the world is the child him or herself. No matter what the circumstances a child is always a gift of God and is to be protected by every means possible.
Many mothers, having chosen chastity before marriage and living marriage in the Gospel, are surrounded by husband, children and extended family. The joy of a nuclear family, with few or many children, is a privileged context for understanding the many blessings of God. I want to thank all wives and mothers who, through the good time and bad, through sickness and health, have weathered the pressures of our society and stayed faithful in their commitment. At the same time I want to acknowledge the fact that there is no cookie cutter motherhood. As I have already said, Jesus’ own birth took place in misunderstood circumstances. The blessings of God’s revelation and the Gospel message are poured out into the world through the motherhood in every circumstance. I especially think of single mothers who are raising their children without the benefit of a father in the home. Perhaps they lost their spouse through tragedy, perhaps they experienced the pain of divorce or perhaps they became pregnant outside wedlock. I think also of mothers in situations of blended families or where one or both spouses are remarried and their children live between two homes. In every circumstance motherhood is still a showerhead of blessings for the child. In fact, in such difficult circumstances the strength and constancy of motherhood, being put to the test, frequently shines forth more brightly and reveals the strength and constancy of God himself in similar testing situations. I want to thank all mothers in challenging circumstances for their perseverance – you are a testimony of dedication. It is my hope that the Parish family of St. Francis is a source of support for mothers in every circumstance. While constantly preaching the Gospel of chastity and the holiness of marriage, let us also be a community of concern and care for mothers in difficult circumstances so that they can shine forth with the blessings of God.
While the first blessing of motherhood is the child him/herself, the second blessing of motherhood is unrelenting tenderness. Scriptures themselves uphold this tenderness as a revelation of God’s own tenderness, “Can a mother forget her infant or be without tenderness for the child of her womb?” (Is 49:15) neither can God be without tenderness for his children. Children rely on a Mother’s tenderness. When injured, they instinctively seek the closeness of a mother. When afraid, they hide behind a mother’s protection. When good, they seek a mother’s approval. And when excited, they run to the mother to share their joy. A mother’s tender affection is the incarnation of God’s tender affection for his children. In mothers, the scripture passage is fulfilled, “the tender compassion of the Most high has broken upon us.”
The next blessing of motherhood is the grace of joy in the face of sacrifice. How many sacrifices a woman must make the moment she becomes a mother! Pregnancy itself alters not only a woman’s body but also her entire future. At the moment of pregnancy a woman’s identity is eternally changed and her life becomes a gift totally given to another. The sacrifices begin with a woman’s own physical discomfort an proceed through the altering of every daily and nightly schedule to meet the ever-present needs of a child. Children, even if they don’t understand the sacrifices, instinctively know the meaning of a mother’s sacrifices: sacrifice is the guarantee of love and the communication of personal dignity. Every sacrifice of a mother tells her child: you are worth my entire self… your value is nothing less than my whole life. The blessing of motherhood is that every sacrifice is the birthing ground of joy unto the gift of life.
The final blessing of motherhood that I want to highlight is discipline. As the book of Sirach says, “One who loves her son chastises him often, that he may be a joy when he grows old up. One who disciplines her son will benefit from him.” But conversely, “One who spoils her son will have wounds to bandage… a son left to himself grows up unruly” (Sir 30:1-8). It is not enough to simply deliver a child to be a mother. Motherhood is more than a biological reality. Motherhood finds its full expression in disciplining a child so that the child will grow into a virtuous person who can live life to its fullest. Just as a woman who is pregnant must refrain from alcohol, drugs or smoking to protect the child in the womb, so too, a mother must constantly protect the child’s environment after birth so that they will develop well. Discipline is not optional for motherhood. Discipline is the gift of a life well lived. Wisdom is something taught, not caught, and a mother’s discipline is indispensable for a child to grow to full maturity. The mother who disciplines, raises children who will discipline themselves and who will receive the discipline of the Gospel, not as a curse, but as a blessing.
The heavens are pregnant with the blessing of God. Today, we celebrate Jesus ascension into heaven where he sits at the right-hand of the Father to shower his blessings upon humanity. And his blessings fall upon us through the gift of motherhood. He himself sanctified motherhood by entering human history through the womb of the Virgin Mary. He consecrated motherhood in every circumstance: children are always the primary blessing of motherhood. Motherhood itself is the incarnation of God’s tenderness, the example of true sacrifice and the manifestation of God’s own discipline. As we recall Christ’s Ascension in to heaven, let us also honor our mothers, living or deceased, who have been the living revelation of God’s blessing in our lives.